Whatever process we are adopting, one thing must be very clear: there should be no arbitrariness and the process must have validity and reliability.
On Thursday, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) presented its evaluation model to the Supreme Court after a 13-member panel worked on it for days. According to the criterion proposed by the CBSE, a maximum weightage of 40 percent has been assigned to Class 12 (pre-board/half-yearly marks) while 30 percent weightage each will be given to an average of best of three subjects in Class 10 and Class 11 final exams.
The model presented before the Supreme Court involves the use of primary and secondary data. The primary data is the data secured by the CBSE, and in this case, it is the marks of 10th standard, which carries 30 percent weightage. The rest 70 percent is secondary data, which includes marks of Class 11 examination results, and pre-boards, as well as half-yearly examination data. This is where we have to be very cautious.
Cautious with secondary data
The primary data is the data already available with the board. There is no chance of a spike in numbers with respect to secured data. The secondary data, however, is not with the board. For instance, the Class 11 results and other exams like half-yearly and pre-boards. There are chances of fudging the marks in the secondary data, and the board needs to arrest it with moderation. Taking care of the 70 percent data is important for a valid process. Ideally, the board should have had a mechanism in place by now.
To arrest inflation of marks, CBSE must compare the marks with the mean of each subject of each school last year, followed by moderation. In India, the heterogeneity of schools is a reality, which also makes the data vulnerable to fudging.
Further, I think, we need to ensure that no further exams are conducted now by any school. Only the exams that have already been conducted should be considered.
Consider only institutionalised exams
In addition, it would have been better to include only institutionalised examinations. By this, I mean the pre-board examinations are not institutionalised, as they are conducted with a different mindset. Either schools follow a tough marking scheme so that students do better in final examinations, or in some cases, the students themselves are not very involved with the pre-board examinations because they are preparing for the final examinations.
But half-yearly exams are institutionalised, so it would be preferred if the 11th final and 12th half yearly examinations get more attention. As far as unit test marks are concerned, there is no structured way of conducting the unit-based examinations. Its importance may be undermined. This too is likely to contribute to fudging of marks.
I want to reiterate that whatever results we are getting, we have to compare them with the mean of last year's board results in each subject, in every school. Then we can do the moderation"which means some plus and minus of marks.
Also some schools do not conduct pre-board exams and there is no direction even by the board that makes it mandatory.
No clarity on best of three
Lastly, the 30 percent weightage to Class 10 Board examination results is also creating a little confusion.
The Board is saying they are taking the highest marks scored by a student in any three subjects, but doesn't define the method to do so. This is confusing. If marks scored in English are the highest, then they cannot be added to mathematics or physics score. Similarly, social science marks can be added to history, geography, political science and economics score. What is needed is -- you consider a student's score in science in Class 10 board exams and add it to their marks in Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
More importantly, this time, it may not be possible to get a bell-shaped curve in distribution of marks. It may be necessarily negatively skewed. Therefore, moderation of marks is extremely important, after carefully adding primary and secondary data so that it gives a resemblance of a bell-shaped distribution.
Ashok Ganguli is former chairman of CBSE.
As told to Eram Agha